Duterte raises possibility of returning Balangiga bells

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte raises possibility of returning Balangiga bells
Two of the Balangiga bells are located at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The church bells taken as war booty by American colonial forces in 1901 will arrive in the Philippines on December 11.
DFA / Released

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday mentioned the possibility of returning the historic Balangiga bells to the US as he was discussing the military alliance between Manila and Washington.

The Balangiga bells were seized by American troops as a war trophy in 1901. They were returned to the Diocese of Borongan, Eastern Samar in December 2018.

During his final state of the nation address, Duterte reiterated that he won't declare a war with China over the West Philippine Sea dispute because it would result in a "massacre" of Filipino soldiers.

Duterte then denied that China helped him in his presidential bid and called those who made the claim "idiots."

The president then talked about the US, a treaty ally of the Philippines, whom he said does not meddle in conflicts involving the boundaries of other nations.

"And if America has to go to war, you would have to go to...American Congress to get the authority to go to war," Duterte said.

"No president has ever been punished for attacking nations, getting into a fight with nothing. And if they come here, well, the problem is the Balangiga (bells) are here. Let us just return them. Maybe I’ll just return it...It’s no big deal to us. There goes the bells, ring it until you die," he added.

During the earlier part of his speech Duterte said the Philippines welcomed back the bells of Balangiga after many decades "because a historic wrong needed to be corrected."

He revealed that former American soldiers had visited him to ask him whether he would accept an invitation by then president Donald Trump to visit the US.
"I said, 'No.' 'Why?' I said, 'I do not like the way that you are treating my country.'" Duterte said.

"And there was the clamor now of Balangiga. "You return the bells of Balangiga." That's a war really sacred also to the soldiers. Then it is more sacred to us in addition to the religion - the Roman Catholic Filipinos - the Church," he added.

Duterte said the former soldiers then offered a deal wherein he would visit the US if the bells are returned to the Philippines

"I said, 'Then you watch me.' Since you want to know, I told America, 'Yes, I might consider going to America.' So well then, I said, 'Work on it.' In just two months’ time, they told me that the ship carrying the Balangiga bells are on their way," Duterte said.  

The president said he eventually decided not to go to the US because he "lost time to do it."

"But in my mind, and the Americans might know it...There was never in my mind a trip to America. With regard to the Balangiga, I said, you massacred one barangay - barrio then, women and children and all, they were all killed because that bell, Balangiga, was used to call the people for prayers," he said.

"So I said, the blood, you really got it at the expense of the blood of Filipinos... 'Do not hurry me up. If I go to America, it will be in my own time.' But actually,...I have not been to America for almost ten years, 20 - 22 years. I have not visited America and I do not have any intention of visiting it anymore." 

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